Motif from Bangladesh
is the artisan in the spotlight this week
For women that have been marginalized by society in Bangladesh, Motif is a safe place they can call home while earning a living to provide for their families. Most of the women employed have experienced some form of discrimination or other scarring incident that has given them a social stigma, making it hard to find decent employment. Some of the women are former prostitutes, others have been affected by leprosy or other diseases, others still have been divorced or abandoned. At Motif the women find a safe place where they can earn a living, as well as share with the other women in a family-type atmosphere.
Motif prides itself on making unique lifestyle fabrics and accessories, and considers the quality and production of their designs, their good prices, timely deliveries, and strong relationships with customers stronger selling points than the fact that all their goods are fair trade -- something they think should be the norm rather than an exception.
Several years ago Shireen's husband left her for another woman -- leaving her with no choice other than to move herself and her two children into her sister's already crowded home. Relationships were strained with this stressful living situation, and made worse by the fact that Shireen's nephews were very strict and did not allow her daughters to freely leave the house or pursue an education.
Luckily, Shireen learned from friends about Motif, and went to see if her skills would be useful to the company. They are -- and she has since become a major source of financial support for her family. She moved herself and daughters out of her sister's home, was able to give her sister a number of loans to support herself, and her daughters are now pursuing their educations. As a senior seamstress at Motif, she is great at training and encouraging the younger and newer women.
Nasma became acquainted with Motif in 2003, when she was one of the manual laborers who was helping to complete the building. She had been fired from her job as a garment worker when she became pregnant, and laboring was the only job she could find that would let her keep her newborn son, Raju, with her on the job. As the staff came and went from the building they got to know her, and suggested she join the team.
She has been very successful -- within three months she was able to save enough money to help her husband, who is disabled due to leprosy, buy a rickshaw to cycle to help support the family, and within a year they had saved enough money that he was able to find work that was easier for him to perform. She also helped out her mother, who was then able to stop doing manual labor and take care of Raju full-time. And finally, in 2008, Nasma's son began attending school, becoming the first child in their family to become educated.